BLOOMINGTON -- Tom Crean turned furious. You might not have expected it. You might not have thought Indiana's coach had it in him.
And then it came with a minute left in the Hoosiers' 83-59 wipeout of North Carolina on Tuesday night. Reserve guard Austin Etherington butchered a drive up the court when he should have passed to a ballhandler, and when the turnover became official, Crean shouted, pivoted and kicked the padded Assembly Hall scoreboard as if he'd become possessed by the spirit of Bob Knight, his brown hair askew across his forehead.
Crean took an on-court moment to give Etherington a piece of his mind. He offered a more detailed assessment in the locker room.
It's about potential, you see. It's about playing to your ability, and playing smart in synch with your teammates.
Bad play is bad play no matter the time or score. The No. 1 Hoosiers (7-0) have a national title in their sights and sloppy play ain't in the game plan.
“I love those guys,” Crean said, “but the ball has to go to the guard. Don't dribble a loose ball.
“Austin is a good player. I want him to play well. We wanted to clamp down and play well the last four minutes. At that point, it's a mental game. It's important that we don't make those mistakes.
“I have no trouble coaching the game until it's over.”
IU's dominance comes with this thought -- imagine how good it will be when it reaches full strength. Senior forward Derek Elston is perhaps a month away from returning from knee surgery. Freshman forwards Hanner Perea and Peter Jurkin won't come off suspension for receiving impermissible benefits during recruiting until Dec. 15.
“Our guys had an edge to them,” Crean said. “It was on defense as much as anything.”
Was it IU's most complete game of the season?
“Against that type of opponent, absolutely,” Crean said, “but the moment I say that, I let my guard down as a coach and I won't be able to be on them the way we need to be in order to keep improving.”
Before Tuesday, Duke had begun chipping away at IU's No. 1 ranking. The Blue Devils jumped from No. 5 to No. 2 after upsetting previous No. 2 Louisville. They have 18 first-place votes to the Hoosiers' 47.
Beating North Carolina by 24 will likely reverse that trend, although that's not a Hoosier priority.
“It's important to stay on task,” Crean said. “I don't think our players are driven by attention, but they have high goals. When we see things, we address them.
“We've never been in this position before. We're all learning together. Nobody is running around feeling entitled. We won't get away from that (hard work).”